Purees vs Baby-Led ‘Weaning’
Should there be a versus at all?
The thing about being a Mama is, what is best for someone else’s baby may not be best for yours.
When introducing my second baby to solids I felt a lot of pressure to use the Baby-Led ‘Weaning’ approach. This method for food introductions has gained a lot of attention in the last few years and maintains a generalized perception that this approach is better than the rest.
Baby-Led Weaning CAN indeed be wonderful (see below), but there’s more than one way to skin a cat Mamas!
At our first formal meal together as a family, I was so excited about our newest little eater at the party, however we experienced a particularly dramatic + scary gagging episode.
In hindsight I now understand that this is completely normal and an important part of the learning process, but at the time I stopped in my tracks. I was astonished at how all of a sudden finger foods seemed like the worst possible idea for our baby.
This was my Mama-bear instinct leading the way. It wasn’t for us yet.
Other than avocado, banana, or essentially anything really mushy, we did purees exclusively for the next 8 weeks.
But here’s the thing – babies need to learn to chew, swallow, and navigate food in their mouth at some point. Especially since they are typically mobile by this age; the probability of finding a rock or choking size object, is fairly high. Therefore, having this skill down in advance has clear benefit.
Around 8-months of age we decided to bridge the gap between purees + finger foods making sure to follow the important guidelines for size, shape, and texture for first finger foods. We had also familiarized ourselves with the difference between gagging vs choking, and my husband was trained in CPR.
I also felt a little less sensitive about the learning curve ahead, and my baby seemed much more capable. There were still some uncomfortable moments but I was more ready to trust in the process.
For the love of Baby-Led
At the heart of the baby-led philosophy you’ll find an amazing attitude towards nutrition + meal time. Its founding principle allows baby to lead and reminds us that they are capable of communicating their likes or dislikes, and also when they are hungry or full;
Baby is boss of their tummy!
As Mama to two boys with very different personalities + eating habits, and also from the families I’ve worked with over the years, what really, really shines when using this method is the attitude at its core.
Baby’s participation is so vital when starting solids! Learning to love food through exploration, self-feeding (when ready), and communication is what will ultimately help our babies develop an open mind towards new food and inspire Little Nutrition Superstars.
I believe in the importance of providing nutritious food for our children, certainly. As an equal priority I encourage a positive + relaxed atmosphere during meals. The children I meet who have the healthiest appetites don’t NECESSARILY have the healthiest nutrition, by definition (some do). What they often have in common though, are rather easy-going parents.
What we project onto our Littles has a long-term impact – I learned this the hard way. Whether it’s foods we want them to love (like kale) or foods we assume they’ll hate (like kale!), it is best as Mamas to relax into the journey.
When a baby has breast or bottle they know when they are hungry or full. The same goes for solids. If baby turns their head away from a puree or spits it out these are important signals. Pushing for one more bite can put a lot of strain on mealtime and may create the exact state-of-stress that we are trying to avoid.
Our babies need to be able to trust us and these are the moments that show them they can.
All we have to do is respect their cues.
No matter if you choose purees, baby-led, or a combination of both, it’s going to be a wonderful journey. Simply let it unfold day-by-day, trust your little one, and let baby come to love food, on their own.